How to Prune Raspberry Canes

Photo by Jessica Walliser
After pruning my raspberry canes, I’m looking forward to summer and their sweet rewards.

Last week brought some beautiful weather, and so despite the boot cast on my left leg, I made the most of it by heading out to the raspberry patch to do a little cleanup.

The raspberry patch was started a few years ago from some starter plants I acquired in a plant swap. It has since turned into quite a thicket of canes. I’m not sure of the varieties, but they’re all red, plump, and delicious. Some of the canes are thornless while others are not. (Guess which one I like better, at least when it comes to pruning?)

Red raspberries come in two types:

  • summer-bearing, which produce their fruit all at once in early July
  • ever-bearing (also called fall-bearing), which produce fruit throughout the season from July through frost.

Summer-bearing raspberries, like Brandywine and Willamette, bear fruit on 2-year-old canes—in other words, on canes that grew from the ground the previous season. Ever-bearing raspberries, such as Heritage, Amity and Summit, produce fruit on both old and new canes. They begin to produce a few weeks later but have a more continual harvest.

I have found that the key to good red-raspberry production is in the pruning. For all types, in March or April, prune all canes to the ground that produced fruit the previous season (you can tell by looking at the end of the cane), and remove any spindly, weak canes to thin the patch.

That’s the only pruning you need to do on summer-bearing raspberries, but ever-bearing raspberries require another step. Also in March or April, prune off the top foot of each cane to encourage the production of lateral branches. These canes will produce the summer crop, while new canes emerging from the soil will produce fruits well into the fall.

An alternative pruning method for ever-bearing raspberries is to cut the entire raspberry patch down to the ground in early spring. This is certainly the easiest method, but it yields only one gigantic crop of fruits in the fall and eliminates any earlier production. Both of the varieties in my raspberry patch must be ever-bearing because I always manage to get a long season of harvest all the way until frost. Makes me hungry for summer already!

Tags Jessica Walliser, prune, raspberry patch

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